Brain Scans Show Distinctive Patterns in People With Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Via Science Daily:

Brain Scan

Scrambled connections between the part of the brain that processes fear and emotion and other brain regions could be the hallmark of a common anxiety disorder, according to a new study from the Stanford University School of Medicine. The findings could help researchers identify biological differences between types of anxiety disorders as well as such disorders as depression.

The study, published Dec. 7 in the Archives of General Psychiatry, examined the brains of people with generalized anxiety disorder, or GAD, a psychiatric condition in which patients spend their days in a haze of worry over everyday concerns. Researchers have known that the amygdala, a pair of almond-sized bundles of nerve fibers in the middle of the brain that help process emotion, memory and fear, are involved in anxiety disorders like GAD. But the Stanford study is the first to peer close enough to detect neural pathways going to and from subsections of this tiny brain region.

Such small-scale observations are important for understanding the brains of people with psychiatric disorders, said Duke University neuroscientist Kevin LaBar, PhD, who was not involved in the research. “If we want to distinguish GAD from other anxiety disorders, we might have to look at these subregions instead of the general signal from this area,” he said. “It’s methodologically really impressive.”

Read More: Science Daily

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7 Responses to Brain Scans Show Distinctive Patterns in People With Generalized Anxiety Disorder

  1. Danis December 31, 2009 at 8:13 am #

    The human brain is such a complex character, it will take the earth's entire life span to learn its complexities.
    Great work scientists and doctors!
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  2. honu December 31, 2009 at 12:22 pm #

    I had what would be called generalized anxiety disorder for 35 of my 40 years (they didn't know what my problem was since it's a relatively newly labeled disorder). It dominated my life and impacted everything I've done or couldn't do and led to 3 serious bouts of depression. I wasn't a shut in and I fought a war inside myself to 'get over' it for most of those 35 years going to different therapies and I lived my life as best I could. When it suddenly seemed to permanently disappear at age 35, it came on the heels of a couple spectacularly difficult life experiences that made me change my attitude on a fundamental level. I'm not exactly sure if they are tied together or it was coincidental because I might have simply outgrown my GAD because GAD, from my experience, doesn't just simply go away with an attitude adjustment or with any particular life changes. Still, I can honestly say that freeing myself permanently of my anxiety disorder is the greatest success of my life. Scientists studying this disorder I applaud but there's a spiritual component to it and in my opinion, to all mental disorders that aren't caused by physical deformities of the brain/spinal cord. I don't know exactly how to describe the spiritual component but I know it's not just simply a physical issue so studying the brain, while a noble an important pursuit, I doubt will yield the full success they expect. But then again psycotheraists are also just focusing on the mental aspect and I found numerous problems dealing with them and their focus of healing.

    • nyxynox December 31, 2009 at 1:01 pm #

      Honu: I am sorry that you had some bad experiences with Psychotherapitsts and it is not uncommon. As a budding Psychotherapist myself (one more year to go!), I would like to say that the field of Psychology is changing. Slowly Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy which dominates the field is being debunked and exposed for its inhumane and machine-like approach to the human psyche. Modalities like those under the Depth umbrella (Jungian, Humanistic, Transpersonal, etc) as well as emergent fields like Imaginal and Integrative Psychology are being more widely accepted. I am proud to be apart of that movement. We are reclaiming Psychology as the study of the soul. I have no doubt that science will soon find out that issues like GAD are more physical manifestations of deeper more soul centered issues then the cause of the emotional “disorder”. Good Luck and Namaste.

  3. GoodDoktorBad December 31, 2009 at 4:28 pm #

    I find it annoying the emphasis put on diagnostic labels, like GAD. To the layman, they amount to an almost meaningless generalization of what the patient is already painfully aware. They feel anxiety, depression etc.

    I find it interesting that the popularity of such diagnostic labeling seemed to spike right around the time that the pharmaceutical industry started marketing to the general public so intensely. You've seen all the ads on TV for prescription drugs for anxiety, depression or other conditions. While these labels may serve some useful purpose I'm not aware of, its pretty obvious that there function is to generalize a “disorder” so a general
    treatment can in in turn, be SOLD to “treat” it.
    As I can see it, diagnostic terms like GAD are little more than sales tools for prescription drugs.
    Sure, drugs can ease suffering, that can't be denied,
    but anxiety, fear, depression are natural reactions to the pressures of living, emotions are natural, not a disorder.
    I have a theory that what is termed emotional disorder due to chemical imbalance, is actually chemical imbalance brought on by emotion issues and other factors like diet and environment. I'm sure that this is not an original idea…

  4. Sean January 1, 2010 at 7:11 pm #

    we condition people towards fear and cowardice these days,
    we keep our precious little angels from ever feeling bad then when they can't cope with the world we make excuses and medicate them, what would happen if modern “man” had to hold the line against a hun invasion or sail the seas in a wooden ship with no fancy tech

  5. 5by5 January 1, 2010 at 7:20 pm #

    While there are real and serious problems that truly must be dealt with, what concerns me is the overarching medicalization of sadness. As if merely looking around with open eye at the state of the world wasn't reason enough to feel bad.

    Sometimes, there are actual REASONS to feel like crap, and rather than glossing over them with some happy pill, perhaps it might be better to look at not just the root causes in people's minds, but also in the root structures of society itself that are driving people nuts.

  6. Poemas de Amor January 4, 2010 at 9:05 am #

    People with generalized anxiety disorder can't seem to shake their concerns. Their worries are accompanied by physical symptoms, especially fatigue, headaches, muscle tension, muscle aches, difficulty swallowing, trembling, twitching, irritability, sweating, and hot flashes.

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